Know this: your uniqueness is your greatness.

My eighth grade English teacher, Mrs. A. was one of a kind. She had really short red hair, bright eyes and such an expressive face. I thought she was totally cool, though; and, she had to have been way old–like in her forties! She had us all in the palm of her hand on the first day of classes–(well, at least I can speak for myself.) How?

Because she got us. She understood something I couldn’t see at the time. To my surprise, possibly amazement, she said this.

“People. (she called us that a lot) I feel for you. I really do. You are at an age that is THE most difficult. The most challenging. There’s so much changing on the outside and so much happening the inside. It’s hard to sort it all out. Just know–I’m here for you. Okay? I’m here if you need to talk. Sometimes you just have to embrace the chaos. Trust me on this. You’ll make it through. But I don’t think you’ll look  back and say, ‘gee, I wish I was in my teens again.'”

Me, I was an excellent student. Nice face, normal weight. But, I wanted to have silky straight hair so badly I slept in beer-can-size rollers. I had to sleep on my back so not to hurt my ears. I’d wake up with a numb scalp and a stiff neck. (Luckily, my studious brain wasn’t affected.) I wanted to be pretty so badly I spent way more time putting on my eye makeup (this included blue eye shadow) than eating breakfast.

Then, one day, for no reason, I couldn’t swallow food. For two weeks at least. To this day I have no idea why. My mother tried to coax me; my dad yelled at me to cut it out. Who knows? For whatever reason, I resumed eating. Do you think something was bothering me? duh. I started counting every calorie. I had a little book for this. I’m so lucky I didn’t become anorexic; honestly, I might have gone down that path. I’m very lucky.

One of my best friends was very tall. She hunched over and slinked along the wall in the junior high hallway. My other good friend was teased and called ‘the undershirt kid’ because she wasn’t developed like big mouth Benson who should have used a crane to hold up her 40D’s.

What I want to say–is that the three of us grew up and turned out very okay. What we had then–was our uniqueness. Our individuality. We weren’t popular, weren’t cheerleaders, didn’t own the expensive trendy clothes. We saw the scene around us in the cafeteria, but we didn’t much care. We had each other even if we were on this side of geeky.

So, like Mrs. A. would have said, own who you are. Work on liking yourself. Cultivating your talents, your interests. Focus on the good. And please! Have compassion for the kids who have the need to conform. Above all, don’t hate them. They have a different path. Go ahead. Love YOUR road.

With best wishes for a year of peace and wonder.

Sandra Dreis







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